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The Specials Review

July 14, 2020 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
The Specials
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The Specials Review  

The Specials Review

Thomas Haden Church– The Strobe
Rob Lowe– The Weevil
Paget Brewster– Ms. Indestructible
Jamie Kennedy– Amok
Jordan Ladd– Nightbird
James Gunn– Minute Man
Judy Greer– Deadly Girl
Kelly Coffield Park– Power Chick
Sean Gunn– Alien Orphan
Jim Zulevic– Mr. Smart
Mike Schwartz– U.S. Bill
Melissa Joan Hart– Sunlight Grrrll
Michael Weatherly– Verdict

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Craig Mazin
Screenplay by James Gunn

Distributed by Regent Entertainment, Anchor Bay Entertainment, Fluid Entertainment, and La La Land Entertainment

Rated R for strong language
Runtime– 82 minutes

Buy it here

The Specials BD Case

The Specials, directed by Craig Mazin, is a sort of superhero spoof comedy that, apparently, came out in the year 2000. Until checking out the new Blu-ray, available from La La Land Entertainment starting July 14th, 2020, I didn’t even know that the movie existed. After watching the movie and considering who is in it and who is responsible for it, why isn’t this movie a bigger deal? Why doesn’t everyone in the world know about The Specials?

The Specials stars Thomas Haden Church as The Strobe and Rob Lowe as The Weevil, the leaders of a superhero team known as the Specials. The Specials are considered either the sixth or seventh greatest superhero team in the world, and as such they are typically sent by the authorities to deal with majorish threats that other, more prominent superhero teams just can’t deal with (the “better” teams might be busy with some other threat or some other superhero business). We manage to see glimpses of the Specials in action, but they’re only glimpses. The movie is more concerned with seeing the Specials dealing with the day-to-day business of being a superhero team with nothing all that pressing to deal with. The team consists of The Strobe (he can shoot laser beams out of his arms), Weevil (he’s the son of a superhero and has the proportionate strength of an insect), Minute Man (James Gunn, who also wrote the screenplay. He can make himself really small), Ms. Indestructible (Paget Brewster. She’s, well, indestructible, and is married to the Strobe), Power Chick (Kelly Coffield, she can turn herself into anything she touches), Alien Orphan (Sean Gunn, a shapeshifting alien that’s watched over by Power Chick), Deadly Girl (Judy Greer, a woman that can summon demons and enter the “World of the dead”), Mr. Smart (Jim Zulevic, the alleged smartest man in the world that can invent machines and whatnot), Amok (Jamie Kennedy, a blue skinned creature that can manipulate antimatter), U.S. Bill (Mike Schwartz, he’s both incredibly smart and incredibly dumb), and Eight (played by John Doe, Brian Gunn, Lauren Cohn, Chuti Tiu, Abdul Salaam El Razzac, Tom Dorfmeister, Johann Stauf, and Samantha Cannon. All eight people share one identity and, as a result, Eight can be in multiple places at once).

Now, when we meet the team, they’re bringing a new member into the fold (Nightbird, as played by Jordan Ladd) and preparing for the unveiling of their superhero action figure toy line. In a world filled with superheroes, having an action figure line is a big deal. Everyone involved with the team should be incredibly excited about this new honor. They’re not, though. Some are, and some aren’t. And Nightbird isn’t all that welcome, either. On top of all of that, The Strobe and Ms. Indestructible are having marital issues (Ms. Indestructible is having an affair with The Weevil). It’s almost like this superhero team is dysfunctional.

And so we see the team deal with all of these, and other, issues. I don’t want to give away all that happens, but, my God, these super beings have problems. Big problems. It’s a wonder that they can function as a team and save the world when they’re called on to do so. We see them talk with one another, argue with one another, and then talk directly to the camera as though someone is making a documentary about them. We also see some of them interact with the general public, and it rarely goes well (no one knows how to pronounce Minute Man’s name. People think it’s “Minute Man,” and he’s fast, but it’s actually My-noot Man).

Director Mazin manages to strike a balance between snarky jokes, general goofiness, and surprisingly heartfelt drama, especially between The Strobe and Ms. Indestructible (it’s like they’re a strained couple running a small business that is barely surviving). The jokes mostly work, although the number of gay jokes may turn off a more modern audience (the jokes aren’t mean-spirited, I thought they were hilarious in the context of the group and the various personalities, but they’re in there and that may offend some people). My favorite aspect of the movie is that, while it’s clearly a spoof, the characters are totally unaware that they exist in a spoof world. Everything that they’re dealing with, reacting to, and experiencing is the real world to them. I don’t think the movie would have worked as well as it does if the characters knew they were in a movie or knew that what they were doing was ridiculous.

It’s also daring to do a superhero movie/a movie about superheroes and not do an extended sequence where we see the superhero team thwart some sort of super villainy. Granted, the movie didn’t have the budget to do a major action sequence, but the lack of even a five minute scene where we see everyone in action, working as a team, fighting a monster destroying a city or something like that, is a gamble. We do see a few glimpses of that kind of thing (we see Ms. Indestructible punch a pterodactyl), but nothing spectacular. How can we take the superhero world seriously if we don’t see the superheroes acting like superheroes? The Specials figures out how to do that and make it work.

The casting is nothing short of brilliant. Rob Lowe, who I usually despise in practically everything he’s in, manages to make The Weevil practically sympathetic. Yes, he’s kind of a douchebag, but he isn’t annoying. And you kind of like him, even if you don’t particularly like the choices he makes. Thomas Haden Church is great as The Strobe. He’s a douchebag, too, but he’s also dignified enough to where even when he’s kind of an asshole you can’t hate him for it. He’s a superhero. How else is he supposed to act? And his relationship with Ms. Indestructible is complicated. Why did she feel the need to cheat on him with Weevil? Her emotional needs weren’t being met, but he might be incapable of understanding that, at least at first. Seeing how that relationship works itself out through the course of the movie is fascinating.

Paget Brewster is exceptional as Ms. Indestructible. She doesn’t get to be as goofy as some of the other members of the team, but her deadpan expressions to the shit going on around her are hilarious. Brewster has always been a terrific comedic actor, and her performance here is another fine example of that.

Jamie Kennedy is off putting but hysterical as the foul mouthed Amok. You get a real sense of his frustration with being a superhero throughout the movie (Amok used to be a super villain and he occasionally reverts back to some of his previous super villain attitudes). His car ride discussion with Weevil is awesome.

James Gunn does a nice job as Minute Man. He, like the movie, straddles the line between being a goofy asshole and a serious person that just wants respect. He also has some nice scenes with both Jordan Ladd’s Nightbird and Judy Geer’s Deadly Girl. Lad and Geer are also fabulous in their parts, too. They’re goofy, they’re weird, but they’re also experiencing real emotions. They both make it work.

As for the outright goofy performances, Kelly Coffield Park is amazing as Power Chick. She’s completely devoted to being the guardian of Sean Gunn’s Alien Orphan that she would do anything for him. Mike Schwartz plays U.S. Bill as a total moron that you could listen to forever because he’s completely clueless. And Jim Zulevic is awesome as Mr. Smart because, despite being incredibly smart, he’s also kind of stupid. What is the point of the smelling device he attaches to his nose but can’t remove?

The only character the movie doesn’t really do anything with is Eight. Eight could have used an action scene. That way, all eight actors could have had a real moment.

Be on the lookout for Melissa Joan Hart and Michael Weatherly as the superheroes Sunlight Grrrll and Verdict, respectively. Their appearances are nothing more than extended cameos, but they both do a good job in their small scenes.

The Specials is a movie that should be a bigger deal than it is in modern pop culture. It should be a movie that everyone knows about and everyone has an opinion about. It’s very funny and a great spoof. If you haven’t seen it, you need to. And if you did see it but haven’t seen it in a while, pick up the new Blu-ray from La La Land Records and revisit it. It’s worth it.

See The Specials. See it, see it, see it.

The Specials Blu-ray has two commentary tracks (one from 2000 with director Craig Mazin, writer/actor James Gunn, producer Mark A. Altman, and visual effects supervisor Mojo, and one from 2005 with James Gunn and Paget Brewster), deleted scenes (these are very funny), a wedding video, a fake toy commercial (one of the movie’s highlights), and behind the scenes photos. The Blu-ray is region free.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 0

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: Butter eating, attempted costume picking, phone calls, a daily meeting, talk about group behavior, a discussion about money, a vote on listening to someone’s origin story, a house tour, an old friend, a brief history interlude, couple talk, costume steaming, chest shaving, multiple instances of mild homophobia, attempted singing in the car, a serious nose injury, boobs, car sex, an action figure unveiling disaster, a total public meltdown, night club hooey, superhero costume return via door slot, a wedding video, talk of pussy, pinball hooey, a goofy dance interlude, pudding eating, tickling, pillow to the face, bottle throwing, a giant TV, an alarm call, and a superhero team assembling.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Rob Lowe, Kelly Coffield Park, Paget Brewster, Jamie Kennedy, Thomas Haden Church, James Gunn, a hilarious story about demons eating kids at a bat mitzvah, talk of “bird powers,” an anal slug, mild homophobia, “crack is worse than pterodactyls,” a hilariously terrible toy commercial, “clown not available in Vermont,” a Japanese POW costume, Melissa Joan Hart, Michael Weatherly, a goofy dance interlude, Krispy Kreme donuts, and a superhero team assembling.

Best lines: “I don’t care what the critics say,” “Ted. That’s coming down,” “Why would we have nude photos of our ex-members on file?,” “Asbestos,” “Hi. I’m Weevil,” “Deadly Girl!,” “You don’t see The Crusaders smoking cigarettes,” “Someone is playing with Playdoh,” “No one wants to hear your boring fucking origin story!,” “You’re twelve stepping me to death, bitch!,” “With super powers comes super responsibility, dammit!,” “Wow, that is a good story!,” “Raisins come from vines!,” “What’s the new girl’s super power?,” “He’s not cute. He’s horrifying,” “Here’s a newsflash. Amok is a fucking asshole,” “Worms don’t grow out of rocks, Tim!,” “I like that thing over there. It’s a design,” “I’ve been offered membership in The Crusaders,” “Those pants make it look like you don’t have any cock. Did I ever tell you that?,” “The world is covered in urine!,” “You’re the big fat goober!,” “Holy shit! Is that a Maxi Pad on his face?,” “Is this a pig or something else?,” “Is that Richard Dawson?,” “I’ve got a fucking Viking helmet on my head!,” “I’m black?,” “Would you like to sleep at my house tonight?,” “What’s wrong? My wife is a weevil fucker!,” “This isn’t a plan, Tim. This is a drawing of your brother with a butt for a face,” “So I’d get my own flying saucer? Shaped like a weevil?,” “Where was that guy when JFK got killed?,” “You can’t do that. You’re gonna rape dogs?,” “Amok. What? I’m gay!,” “What’s it like summoning demons?,” “Nightbird. What exactly are bird powers?,” “It must be hell to be married to me,” “Did you two sleep together last night? Is oral sex sleeping together?,” “Has anyone noticed Mr. Smart has an enormous package? My father, too, had a large penis,” “But the world needs The Specials!,” “Dammit, Ted, if you were my Siamese twin I’d fucking kill you!,” and “Look, I have a right to my goddamn privacy!”

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
The Specials is a superhero spoof comedy that I had no idea existed until I heard about the new Blu-ray from La La Land Records, available starting July 14th, 2020. It’s a terrific comedy that, considering that Guardians of the Galaxy guru James Gunn wrote the screenplay and acts in it, should be more well-known and a bigger deal in modern pop culture. Rob Lowe is in it, too, in a non-total douchebag performance, as well as Jamie Kennedy, Paget Brewster, and Thomas Haden Church. The movie is a great example of superheroes living ordinary lives when they’re not saving the world. If you’ve never seen it, be sure to pick up the Blu-ray and check it out. And if you have seen it but haven’t seen it in years, give it another shot. It’s worth it. So, when the heck are we going to get The Specials 2? I think the world would enjoy that.

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The Specials, Bryan Kristopowitz